You’ve probably heard all the tips for managing your time more effectively.
They make sense. They’re useful, and yet, when you focus on wrangling back some of your time, you’re focusing on a symptom, not the disease.
I want to go deeper. I want to talk about the need to manage your attention.
Are they related … managing time and managing attention?
Of course. But managing time has to be done in the service of managing your attention and keeping your focus.
Otherwise, all you’re doing is ending up with a bit more time and still no clear idea of what you need it for or what you’re gonna do with it!
The goal of managing attention is far more critical. That said, you can only achieve it by managing your time.
Case in point:
Recently, a client was bemoaning her time management skills. She struggled with prioritizing and delegating. Multi-tasking and numerous interruptions left her feeling exhausted and non-productive by the end of the day.
She tried all the tricks the productivity experts recommend.
She made lists and turned off her email notifications. She tried to “touch” each piece of paper or email only once and had regular status meetings with her assistant.
Nothing worked all that well. She still felt like a hamster in a wheel … harried, overwhelmed, and not very productive.
She realized she was embracing an “I don’t have enough time” narrative.
Truth be told, she likely doesn’t. Nobody does.
So, what could she do?
Address the underlying cause of her problem.
Splintered focus due to the failure to identify what’s most important.
And how did she adress that?
By connecting to her why.
Connecting on an emotional level to what you really want will tell you what you want to give your single-minded attention to.
She identified her intrinsic motivation to complete the most important tasks vs. approaching tasks as if they were more or less equal in importance.
After all, that’s the “disease” … not knowing what’s most important.
Only then did we look at what was sabotaging her time management efforts.
Let’s be real. Interruptions occur as if on a conveyor belt, and distractions are ever-present.
In 1978, the training film maker, Cally Curtis, put out a wonderful film called Perfectly Normal Day.
It’s hilarious to watch now, because of the ridiculous clothing and hairstyles of the day, but the content is pure gold.
It teaches a profound lesson … that, as much as we’d like to eliminate interruptions and distractions, we can’t.
They’re part of a perfectly normal day, and the key is to ruthlessly keep your eye on the ball and IMMEDIATELY go back to working on your priorities whenever you’re interrupted or you’ve strayed from the task at hand.
Here’s the reality. No one achieves perfect time management and perfect attention to what’s important. Every one of us is constantly challenged.
Who “wins” are the people who can do the best job of maintaining their focus and managing their time … like the best baseball hitters, who fail only 7 out of 10 times vs. the merely good players, who fail 7.5 times out of 10.
So, how do you do it? How do you defend yourself the best you can from intrusions and distractions?
My client did a handful of things. She put the proverbial blinders on and refused the lure of multi-tasking. And she declined to click on that kind-of-important looking email that inevitably came in while she was working on a project.
As she worked on managing her attention, priorities became more apparent. A by-product of that realization was she began to say no when appropriate.
She realized she couldn’t give 100% to everything, so she chose to not take on anything else until she’d exhausted what that particular project needed from her.
This was freeing and a game changer for her, and it all stemmed from the strong desire to nurture and protect her “baby” … the thing she cared most about.
Finally, she decided to help train her brain to do a better job of paying focused attention. Meditation, prayer, and yoga are all ways you can help train your brain to be better at focusing.
The bottom line: By focusing on managing her attention, she became more productive … more satisfied … and time was no longer was the enemy.